Thu, 17 Oct 2019

Photo from PCOO.

THE DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION has been most adept in the use of propaganda for everything it does; social media influencers supplement the messages that run freely through government media. It does not really need mainstream media to add to the flow of self-praise. And yet, some news organizations lend their coverage to what looks like an orchestrated cheering squad for the government.

CMFR jeers an outrageous example of such coverage: The Philippine Star'sbanner story on June 30 that merely echoed the administration's accomplishment report, providing neither scrutiny nor analysis of its content. The report was a self-serving press release for the administration in the guise of news.

In its role of watchdog, the duty of the press in this instance is to review the truthfulness of the reported accomplishments or what remained lacking if indeed the presidential agenda has done so much. Instead, The Star headlined the report with unabashed boosterism: Rody marks 3rd year: The best is yet to come. As the statement was not in quotes, the headline editorialized.

With Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo as its only source, the story did not cite any actual document. It merely quoted the spokesperson as he listed President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed "countless and incomparable feats" including the "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program and "Dutertenomics" that reportedly made the Philippine economy "one of the strongest economies and growth leaders in the region." It also detailed his "independent foreign policy," anti-corruption and peace order campaigns and other key policies. The report noted that Panelo praised the president for his "political will" and quoted the spokesperson saying that the majority of Filipinos "are in awe of PRRD's accomplishments."

The Star's banner story on the following day, Palace rates Duterte 9 out of 10, was a mere continuation of the first. The follow-up again failed to cite other sources.

Other media organizations including the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Panelo: Filipinos 'in awe' of Duterte achievements), Rappler (As Duterte enters 3rd year in office, Malacanang says ‘best is still to come') and (Malacanang touts long list of accomplishments in Duterte's 3rd year in power) also picked up the story. But each one took care to cite the source in its headline.

Of the four news organizations, only Rappler and the Inquirer were able to provide an analysis of Panelo's claims.

The Inquirer noted that while the administration took credit for the "dismantling of the illegal drug industry," it did not mention the casualties in the "drug war." While Panelo hailed the president for his independent foreign policy "made possible by removing subservience to Western powers," the Inquirer recalled how Duterte is being criticized for refusing to assert Philippine jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea.

Rappler noted that while Panelo claimed that the president gave his critics and detractors "free space to air their grievances," rights groups have hit the shrinking space for dissent with some 2,370 human rights defenders being accused of various alleged offenses. Italso noted that while Panelo claimed economic growth, the country has been hit with high inflation rates and a budget deadlock that caused a 4-year low. Without analysis, there is little to be gained from the administration's run-down of the president's programs. Clearly the Palace is preparing for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) this July 22. Media should do their homework and publish their own report on Duterte's "accomplishments" based on independent analysis.

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